In our culture, just saying the word “payback” carries a bit of satisfaction.  It does not, however, bring real encouragement.  Oh, I suppose the very immature (and I do not mean young) will derive some encouragement out of revenge, but that indicates a very real lack of understanding of “encouragement.”

Paul commanded:  “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone” (Romans 12:17a).  The literal translation of the phrase is:  “paying back evil for evil to no one.”  That’s it!  No exceptions!!  There are no qualifications to allow payback for someone who “deserves it,” or “who did me and mine wrong,” etc.

So where is the word of encouragement in this?  First of all, it encourages me to know that “payback” is not my responsibility.  The following verses show that payback is not out of the picture; it’s just out of mine.  I wouldn’t do it right, anyway.  Second, put this into the context of what God wants of His people.  Isn’t it encouraging to know that God has a place (church) for us all where we need not fear “payback” from one another?

I’m glad God loves me this much!  He loves you, too, and so do I.

Donnie Bates

A Humble Approach

The Bible is full of the teaching of the necessity of humility.  A Christian simply must be humble in every aspect of his or her life.  In our continued look at the practical application of faith, we find another example of this very teaching:  “…do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly.  Do not be wise in your own estimation” (Romans 12:16b).

In other posts we have made reference to God’s plan for His family (the church) and how encouraging it is to know that, according to His plan, every member is cared for and his or her needs are perfectly met.

The word translated “haughty” refers to an arrogance in thinking oneself to be too important to associate with those beneath one.  Likewise, the word translated “lowly” means “undistinguished.”  These “lowly” or “undistinguished” people are only of such low standing in the eyes of the arrogant.  In the eyes of God, they were worth dying for.  Another point to remember, before we become haughty, is that we, in our arrogance, may be thought “lowly” by someone else.

Draw your sense of self-worth and your encouragement from God.  He loves you, and so do I.

Donnie Bates

Of the Same Mind

Having the right response to those whose emotions are at one extreme or another is a great way to identify with them and communicate to them that they are not alone.  Another is to obey the next command:  “Be of the same mind toward one another…” (Romans 12:16).

Being of the same mind toward someone gives a sense of community or fellowship; a sense that one is not alone.  It does not, however, mean that we must agree on every detail of life.  Scripture is quite clear that not even Christians agree on everything (e.g. Paul and Barnabas had a sharp disagreement over the personnel of a mission trip, Acts 15:39).  However, on matters of doctrine, which is clearly spelled out in Scripture, we must agree.

On the other hand, is the difference between doctrine and opinion what Paul is really addressing here?  It seems more likely, given the context of the chapter, that Paul is simply saying we should put our faith into practice by caring for one another.  God’s plan for a healthy family (church) is that everyone be concerned about everyone else and not themselves (see Philippians 2:1-3).

Yes, God loves you and so do I.

Donnie Bates

An Appropriate Response

I was at a preachers’ luncheon once where one of those present made the statement that in a funeral service, he felt it necessary to maintain a “professional” level of composure.  He felt it inappropriate for the preacher to shed tears.  The passage that immediately came to my mind was Romans 12:15:  “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”

When it comes to encouraging people, this verse must stand near the top because it commands an identification with those who are experiencing emotions that make them vulnerable.  Whether we speak of rejoicing or weeping, this is a sensitive and critical time when a feeling of isolation can be devastating.

Rather than reacting with envy to the rejoicing of someone else, rejoice in their victory.  Rather than remaining silent (or worse, rejoicing) when someone suffers, stand beside them; shed your tears with theirs.  In either case, let that person know that they are not alone, but have someone who stands alongside.

It encourages me to know that I have many who stand beside me, no matter the circumstances of my life.  Be that kind of encouragement to someone today.  And remember, God loves you and so do I.

Donnie Bates

A Difficult Blessing

Continuing to speak of the proper attitude a Christian should have in making his or her Christianity practical, the apostle Paul says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14).  Wow!

Many years ago I was speaking to a group of preachers and made the comment that “love your enemies” is not milk, but meat and some of the toughest meat in Scripture because it’s so hard to digest.  One of them spoke up and said, “Brother, that’s not meat; that’s gristle!”  Well, this command of the apostle fits into that category.

How do we do this?  The word “bless” literally means to speak well of someone.  We get our English word “eulogize” from the same Greek word.  So, we’re supposed to speak well of those who persecute us, rather than call down upon them God’s judgment in the form of a curse, like we may think they deserve. I repeat, “Wow!”

Before we consider this is asking too much, remember just how much God has “blessed” us in the same way when we had, in effect, cursed Him!  I’m glad He loves me.  He loves you, too, and so do I.

Donnie Bates

Practicing Hospitality

Meeting needs and practicing hospitality are two characteristics of love in action, and both are part of Paul’s list of attitudes the Christian must have (Romans 12:13).

The word “hospitality” generally brings to mind the idea of opening one’s home to someone else.  Inherent in the meaning of the word is the showing of hospitality to a stranger.  Christianity in practice is not particular as to its object.

The word “practicing” also has some valuable information for us.  It literally means “to pursue” something.  In other words, faithful Christians are looking for (or pursuing) opportunities to show hospitality to anyone who has any need.

Can you imagine a world where everyone made it their daily practice to seek out those they could help in some way, meeting whatever needs they had?  Well, that is the world of the faithful Christian.  I don’t know about you, but I need to work on this.

God has designed His church in such a way as to provide for those who have needs.  There is no better place to find encouragement as long as Christians are obeying His instructions.  His church is for those He loves and He loves you; and so do I.

Donnie Bates

Contributing to the Needs of the Saints

The apostle Paul continues his list of attitudes we must have in putting our Christianity into practice by saying, “…contributing to the needs of the saints…” (Romans 12:13).  This particular entry in the list may be the one that is most easily understood to be one of great encouragement.  Christian love is love in practice.  In this case, the clear command is to love by meeting the needs of our brethren.

The word translated “contributing to” is an interesting word.  This is not just putting some money in the hat when someone has a need, although there is nothing wrong with that.  What Paul commands here is that we “participate” in those needs.  The word is the same word used elsewhere for “fellowship.”  So, rather than giving a little of our excess to help out, this is more like what the first century church did when they sold all they had and shared with anyone who had need (Acts 2:45).

It’s easier to endure hard times when you know you are not alone.  This is the sentiment behind the command.  God wants you to know you never have to be alone.  He loves, you know, and so do I.

Donnie Bates